Jerusalem: Upbeat at the prospect of
resumption of direct peace talks with Palestinians, Israel`s
hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes the two
sides have a historic chance "to surprise all the doubters" by
striking a peace deal and end decades of conflict.
"We can surprise all the doubters," Netanyahu told
ministers at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting in
"But we need a serious partner. If we have a serious
partner, we can achieve an historic agreement," he said.
The Prime Minister`s comments follow announcements by
the US earlier this week that Israel and the Palestinians will
return to direct peace talks to be hosted in Washington by US
President Barack Obama, on September 2 after an 18-month
Obama will hold separate meetings with Netanyahu,
Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah
on September 1, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to
launch the renewed negotiation the following day.
Netanyahu has repeatedly demanded that the talks focus
on guaranteeing Israel`s security before moving on to
determine the borders of a future Palestinian state. The PA on
the other hand has called for a complete halt on building
activities by Israel in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
"Any deal will have to be based on security
arrangements and a recognition of Israel as a Jewish state,"
the Israeli premier said.
Clinton and US special envoy to the Middle East,
George Mitchell, said over the weekend that the negotiations
will aim to reach a permanent settlement and the establishment
of a Palestinian state in a year.
They said the negotiations will focus on all core
issues - Jerusalem, borders, refugees, security, settlements
Clinton noted that there will be no preconditions,
being considered a major achievement for Netanyahu, who
insisted that the direct talks take place unconditionally.
However, for the PA, to get into direct talks with
Israel without putting a halt on construction activities in
the West Bank and east Jerusalem can further erode its support
among the Palestinians and strenghen rival group Hamas, which
controls the Gaza Strip since June 2007 after vanquishing
forces loyal to the PA in pitched battles.